italy_flag.gifjapan_flag.gifgermany_flag.gif The 1940s us_flag.jpgbritain_flag.jpgussr_flag.gif
by Erin B-D

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The 1940s was a decade full of dramatic changes in both America and the world. By the end of the decade, Europe was reduced to rubble, the Soviet Union had locked itself behind an Iron Curtain, the world's military superpowers had fallen to their knees, and America was pulled out of the Great Depression and into the global spotlight. Almost overnight, she found herself to be the protector of democracy not only in the Western Hemisphere, but all over the world.

“It goes without saying that when survival is threatened, struggles erupt between peoples, and unfortunate wars between nations result.”―Hideki Tojo


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The start of WWII awoke the sleeping giant that was Industrial America. Factories that had not long before been driven to the brink of bankruptcy now employed the thankful masses. During the war, the United States would produce and export over $32 billion worth of goods to the allied countries alone-- well up from the near total stalemate of a decade before.

family.jpgThe 1940s also began an era of immense societal change. The Great Depression had forced the nation to scale back-- rationing, foreclosures, and divorce rates were at all-time highs, and the birthrate had dropped dramatically. By the time the war was over, nation's economy was booming and along with it the number of new marriages and births skyrocketed. This increase in young families began the generation known as the Baby Boom, the members of which have formed the backbone of the American workforce from the mid 60s through today.


“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
Winston Churchill



A New America
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The 1940s was marked by many societal and military changes. Here are a few of the most significant:
Fashion:
The war dominated the fashion of the '40s. Rationing removed many fabrics and materials from the runway, but also sparked a few new approaches to style. The lack of nylon and silk stockings, for example, led to women beginning to wear slacks(!). Women's suits acquired a military edge. The colors of fabrics also shifted to military-inspired khakis and forest greens.
Weapons:
Tanks and guns were enlarged and improved. Submarines and airplanes were also used a lot in battle. The more accurate and widely diversified weapons resulted in many more fatalities than had been seen in previous wars.
Politics:
Franklin D. Roosevelt became the 1st US president elected to four consecutive terms.
Music:
Jazz and big band styles were still popular--reminiscent of the upbeat music of the Roaring 20s. Other styles like bebop jazz also grew in popularity during the decade. A few of the "big names" were the Andrews Sisters, Dizzy Gillespie, Glenn Miller and Bing Crosby. The music of the 40s would eventually give rise to the rock and roll of later decades.

Propaganda
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”By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
Adolph Hitler


Propaganda.jpgPropaganda was the media of the 1940s. It was used on both sides of the fighting to spark national pride, encourage enlistments, raise funds and protray the terrible effects that would surely fall upon the world should the other side win. The use of iconic symbols and catchy slogans contributed greatly to the enormous effect that propaganda had on national morales.

“Print is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party.”Joseph Stalin



After the War
times-square-kiss.jpgAlthough the end of the war brought relief to the soldiers and their families back on the home front, it brought new tensions to the world. Berlin was divided, Japan was destroyed, and the Soviet Union, a crucial ally of the US and Great Britain during the war, was locking itself away behind the iron curtain and trying to draw Eastern Europe in too. This effort on the part of the Soviets to spread communism throughout the world led to enormous tensions between the democratic and the communistic countries of the world. These tensions, combined with the fear of imminent atomic warfare, would remain until the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
―Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immediately after the war, however, the Nuremburg Trials were underway in Germany, and similar trials were happening in Japan. They ensured that soldiers and military generals would no longer be able to pass off horrific crimes and genocide as simply a part of modern warfare, and they jump-started the newly formed United Nations' mission of world peace.
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Domestic Life Again
When the American soldiers returned home after the war, they entered a changed America. The once struggling economy was now booming, and their wives and girlfriends had taken over their jobs in the factories. The families of the nation, having been saving and doing without during the war, were now ready to make large purchases, often homes or cars. For the soldiers returning home, Congress had passed the GI Bill, making college accessable to the middle class for the first time in history.

In Conclusion

World-War-II.jpgAmerica and the world would move forward after WWII. Soon other conflicts would engulf the nation, other leaders would emerge. Women, evicted from their jobs after the soldiers returned, would later fight to regain their newly found roles in the workplace. The Civil Rights movement would grip the nation, and the hippies and happiness of the 60s would take the place of the rationing and "doing without" that dominated the social scene during the war. The fact remains, however, that without the 1940s, the world as we know it today would not exist.

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.
―Harry S. Truman


Sources
eh.net/encyclopedia/article/tassava.WWII
kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade30.html
kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade40.html
www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors
www.womeninwwii.com/fashion/1940sfashion.asp
vector.tutsplus.com/articles/inspiration/inspiration-80-amazing-wwii-allied-propaganda-posters/
www.thepeoplehistory.com/40smusic.html
www.gibill.va.gov/gi_bill_info/history.htm